Timber is rising in the NW


A month ago, we wrote about how things seem to be turning around economically for the timber industry. Of course, there are still many challenges, but now that we’re starting to recover from the recession, timber prices and demand are going up.

And now there are more postive signs. West Fraser Timber Co., one of Canada’s largest timber firms, just reported its first profit in two years, and its CEO, Hank Ketcham, said the prognosis is good for the forestry business, according to a Canadian Press story:

North American lumber prices were up 31 per cent during the first quarter of 2010, Ketcham said, and he expects prices to remain strong during the busy spring building season.

Higher prices are being fuelled by an imbalance between a depleted supply and pent-up demand. Dealers and wholesalers are beginning to restock lumber in advance of the spring and summer construction season, but inventories are restricted because forestry companies shut many of their mills during the recession.

Meanwhile, KGW-TV in Portland reports that Oregon home builders aren’t happy about rising lumber prices. Of course, prices should always be reasonable, but the higher prices are at least an indicator that the state of the industry is improving.

In other news, forestry officials in Mississippi are still trying to determine the exact damage to the state’s forests from last weekend’s tragic tornado. According to this Clarion Ledger story, things aren’t looking good so far.

Snapped at the wrong place. Deeply splintered. Trees damaged by Saturday’s storm may be unusable or damaged enough to fetch less money for investors and school districts that harvest the wood on 16 section land.

State officials will do aerial flyovers today, an attempt to get a better understanding of how much of the $19.8 million in timberland was damaged.

Nearly $865 million worth of timber products were harvested in 2009, making it the state’s second largest agricultural commodity.

“I’ve seen some pictures in the direct damage zone. It’s catastrophic,” said Bruce Alt, executive vice president of the Mississippi Forestry Association.

Incidentally, according to the story, Seattle’s Plum Creek has 665,000 acres in Mississippi but was very lucky to not sustain any damage.